Microsoft's Cortana Could Soon Take On Google Assistant And Alexa

11 May 2017, 7:06 am EDT By Anu Passary Tech Times
Microsoft's voice assistant Cortana could rival Amazon's Alexa and the Google Assistant. The company announced Cortana support for third-party apps such as iHeart radio, Dark Sky, Domino's, and more.  ( Stephen Lam | Getty Images )

Microsoft's voice assistant Cortana is gearing up to throw the gauntlet to Amazon's Alexa and the Google Assistant. The Redmond-based company intends to use its AI assistant to power a slew of devices by end 2017.

Microsoft — like Amazon and Google — is looking to deploy Cortana in internet-connected smart speakers. On Wednesday, May 10, at the Microsoft Build 2017 developer conference, the company revealed that both Intel and HP had partnered with it to develop Cortana-powered hardware. This move will help the company extend Cortana's reach.

Cortana To Rival Alexa And Google Assistant?

Microsoft's Cortana is available for Xbox One and Windows 10 users. However, the company is looking to extend the virtual assistant's reach. At the Build 2017 conference, Microsoft gave a peek into how Cortana could work in other devices — apart from a traditional PC — such as a demo car and the Harmon Kardon Invoke speaker.

The company also shared the cross-platform abilities of Cortana, which enhances its utility. Cortana can basically work contextually, depending on the device the user is deploying the assistant on. To illustrate, if one is driving and gets a message, the Microsoft AI assistant will remind one about the same when the user is at their desk and can respond to the same easily. Cortana can also give the user the gist of the message while he or she is driving, instead of reading out the complete message.

What Will Give Cortana The Edge?

Cortana currently has nearly 141 million monthly active users. Marcus Ash, Microsoft Cortana general manager, told publication Business Insider that the company intends to take advantage of its existing active Windows 10 devices, partner companies, as well as data storehouse to have an edge over rivals.

The company's focus is how Cortana is able to deliver the information a user needs. It does not matter if the user is deploying Cortana on their smart speaker, handset, or PC. Moreover, Microsoft is not bothered if a user types or belts out the command.

Like Alexa and Google Assistant, the Microsoft virtual assistant is equipped with the ability to schedule reminders, answer basic queries, and more. However, Cortana's skills can be extended beyond these as Microsoft demonstrated at the conference. The personal assistant's skills can be deployed for apps and office tools such as a timesheet system for the firm as well.

Cortana Gets Third-Party App Support

While Cortana could schedule appointments, play music, and was compatible with apps like Netflix that one could download from the Windows Store, it was not open to an array of third-party apps.

However, going forward, developers will be able to port Cortana's existing skills or even develop new ones. Cortana will support iHeart radio, TuneIn, Dark Sky, Domino's, and OpenTabler to name a few.

So, in the near future, one would be able to use Cortana on third-party apps to order pizza or even make a reservation!

What About Microsoft-Branded Smart Speakers?

Microsoft does not have its brand of smart home speakers such as the Echo or Google Home, which could use Cortana's abilities. However, the company's partners are creating products along the lines of the Google Home and Amazon Echo. HP, however, announced that it would sell a Cortana speaker and things look promising.

However, it remains to be seen whether the company's efforts will aid it in taking on competition. It is not known by when the new Cortana-integrated hardware would become available.

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